September 23, 2013

Adopted and Stronger. Here's Why.

Challenge has never been a stranger to me. 

Throughout the journey of life, I've encountered so many obstacles, all of which I won't list here if for no other reason than it would go against every rule of successful blogging.  

I will share just a few. 

My husband and I were the pastors of an abusive church at one time. (This is more common for pastors to experience than you may think.) 

Photo Credit: JeffPearce, Flickr

Years ago, Larry and I lost our jobs, home, income, social network and more -  all at once. We experienced the loss of everything except each other and our kids, and a few other material possessions. We didn't have money to rent storage. The few things we still owned were stored in an empty Sunday School room of a church that had compassion on us.  

The experience of pastoring the abusive church and the loss that resulted was a wake up call that showed us who our real friends were. Some stood by us and some didn't. I was able to quickly cut our Christmas card list by two-thirds. (That was back when I was still sending Christmas cards. Now I just do a Facebook update that tells everybody Merry Christmas in about two seconds minus the need to spend fifty bucks on stamps.) 

I’ve faced absolutely off-the-wall happenings nobody would believe unless I had witnesses to testify to it.

Stuff like the first week of our pastorate in Tampa starting off with a murder.

Yes. I. Am. Serious.

This alone is worthy of it's own book, and someday I may write it.

Our pastorate here began with a murder in the church that could have been made into a Lifetime movie! My husband's first role as lead pastor here was to appoint a media spokesperson, field calls from the press, and reserve rows of seats for them during the services.

You think I'm kidding? I wish I was. 

We have endured church splits and the conflict surrounding such that is so painful most pastors would rather slide down a razor blade into a vat of alcohol than deal with it.

I’ve faced the loss of those I love through illness, death, betrayal and more.  
And here’s the crazy truth... 

All of this pales in comparison to adoption.

I know, I know. Those of you who aren’t adopted don’t get it. Right now you are saying, "Deanna needs to go on psychotropic drugs as soon as possible..." And even some of you who are adopted don’t get it.  

Being abruptly and permanently separated from your earthly life-giver in infancy is trauma unequaled. I say earthly because as a person of faith I believe God is my ultimate life-giver. 

For me, these losses pale in comparison to adoption because most of those traumas are temporary situations (unemployment, homelessness, church conflict and even tragedy) while adoption is something that affects one throughout our lives again and again and again whether we want it to or not. 

My husband can testify to this fact. Even as recently as last week we both met with my doctor who requested to go over the results of my lab work. Both the doctor and the nurse separately questioned me about the medical history of both my maternal and paternal families. The discussion over the lack of knowledge about my paternal side and how it affects my health currently, occurred twice in one day.  As we left the doctor's office hand in hand my husband said, "Babe, you're right. Most people really don't have a clue about how this affects adoptees."

A lot of people don’t understand which makes it a great challenge for those who face it, compared to those who face the kind of losses that everybody validates. 

Photo Credit: Ruth M-Gibson, Flickr

Things Well-Meaning Friends Say 

Some of my dearest friends who I am certain mean only good and not harm have said words to encourage me...things like “Deanna, I look at it this way…you’re amazing! If you are the product of adoption then all I have to say is yay for adoption!!!”  I try to educate and say, “Can I gently invite you to replace the word “adoption” in that sentence with any other traumatic event? Pick a trauma, any trauma…” So imagine the same sentence this way:

“Deanna, I look at it this way…you’re amazing! If you are the product of assault with a deadly weapon then all I have to say is yay for assault with a deadly weapon!!”

Can you imagine saying that to someone? No, of course not!
No one would ever say, "Yay for assault with a deadly weapon!" 
Because they readily understand that assault is traumatic.

 I already know what you’re thinking.
"That is crazy, Deanna. Assault is not adoption."
You’re right. It’s not. 

But like assault, adoption contains trauma. 
A trauma of a different nature? Yes. Nevertheless, it is trauma.
Do you doubt that or disagree? Please, I implore you to read THIS.

There is significant loss and grief that is involved -- it is simply unrecognized by most of the population. This in turn makes it worse when an adoptee speaks about it and is paints a picture other than the glamorized  version. To add insult to injury, many times this is not just presented as someone’s opinion but as biblical truth. Ouch!

Perhaps this is what makes it so much harder at times for the adoptee – going through a trauma yet having to keep it quiet unless you want to be misunderstood or even misaligned.
We who are adopted have survived the unthinkable.
I use the word unthinkable because most of the population is not adopted nor could they wrap their heads around our reality. When you’ve always had your natural family and all the trimmings you can’t imagine anything other kind of life. I really do understand why my friends who have always had all this in their lives find it hard to grasp the reality of adoptee losses. 

If you've always had running water, you have no idea what it's like to live parched.
 Going without is not even on your radar.
Adoptees are the most amazing people I know. 
I stand in awe of the strength of those who surround me. 
In the face of their losses, they now stand--  fortified, stronger and resilient in the aftermath.

Resilience Used as a Weapon

Our strength itself is sometimes utilized against us. As if resilience is a suitable reason for people to be hurt in the first place.

Last month I received letters from a blog reader who is very critical of the stand I have taken publicly on the Baby Veronica case. The writer of the letters is the grandmother of a child relinquished for adoption by her daughter when she was a teenager. This woman becomes defensive when reading my blog and my assumption is that one reason may be that my writing unsettles her because of her role in the relinquishment of her grandchild. She believed her teenage daughter was doing the only right thing to do because she was so young and unwed.  She fully supported and even encouraged the relinquishment of her own grandchild. According to her, I'm wrong about the Veronica case because, "Kids are resilient! Veronica's adoption needs to happen. She will get over it in time! She'll be fine." 
Just because children can bounce back doesn't mean we should give them a reason to have to. 

Every adoptee who is still here has had to bounce back.
Many of them didn't survive.
If you're not already aware, suicide happens at a much higher rate with adoptees. 
If we're still here, we've survived.

And many of us have gone beyond surviving to thriving. We are successful. We are strong. We are productive members of society -- many of us, even over-achievers. 

I've written about the fact that many times or even most, it's not because of adoption it's in spite of it.

One of the most frustrating things to me is that so often my successes in life have been attributed to adoption when in fact, adoption is a trauma I had to overcome in order to be successful. 

By the way, you can love your adoptive family yet not love adoption. 
I am honored to be a part of an amazing circle of adoptees that includes artists, humanitarians, professionals of every variety and servants of the most High God. 

Here's the truth --
We have survived the unthinkable, and now we do the extraordinary.